One of the more interesting developments in the underground over the past half-decade or so is the renewed interest in dungeon synth. This was no doubt brought on by the rise of Dutch practitioner Old Tower, who released the excellent Stellary Wisdom this year on Profound Lore, as well as the recent reissues of Mortiis’ early works, coupled with his recent tours focused strictly on this “era one” material as opposed to his current industrial rock/metal incarnation.
I had an intro written and ready to go, reflecting on all the good and bad that heavy music in 2015 had to offer (mostly bad), but then I remembered that no one reads these long-winded, pointless intros. So, without further ado, here are eleven musical things (not just albums) that grabbed a hold of my crank and kept on yanking in 2015…
Last year, Gainesville, FL’s Ars Phoenix put out one of the best darkwave albums I’ve heard in quite some time in the form of Violent Rain, a release that combined robotic synths with an icy, sinister vibe to create a delightfully dark yet catchy and at times even danceable take on the genre. I revisit the album often, so I was quite excited when the band e-mailed to inform me that they had some new material out in the form of a split with fellow Floridians Burnt Hair titled Shinju (“double suicide” in Japanese).
As a reviewer, tons of releases come across my desk every year, but few of them actually make me stop and say “Wow, this album is really something.” Burial Hex’s The Hierophant is just such an album; its seamless mixture of disparate tones and textures is simply unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. Please believe it when I say this is not another case of music journalist hyperbole, this is simply one of the most stunningly unique, beautiful and unsettling recordings ever to ravage my unworthy ears.
How in the blue hell did I manage to get even this far into the THKD Top 100 without covering a Danzig album?! Granted, the list is in no particular order, but given my Danzig super-fan status, you’d think I would’ve touched on one of the man’s records within the first few posts. The bands/artists you love the most are always the most difficult to write about and let’s face it, I’ve already devoted a fairly exhaustive amount of digital ink to the goddamn mighty GD (here, here, here, here… need I go on?). What’s left to say about my love for the man and his music at this point?
Underground metal is a land of extremes. Bands playing so fast that a human drummer can’t keep up, bands playing so slow they make a glacier look speedy, bands trying to play the heaviest, the most technical, the most brutal, the most… ah, fuck it, you get the idea. What I’m attempting to get at is, there’s typically no such thing as subtlety in the circles we travel in. This is what makes Emptiness’ Nothing but the Whole such a refreshing album. Where other bands seek to crush your soul in the first thirty seconds, Emptiness would rather watch it slowly wither and die.
I’ve long had a thing for the gothic/darkwave sound, and although I don’t seek it out as rabidly as I do metal, some great bands in this style have been coming my way of late. Last year saw Ghost Noise releasing a promising debut album and the past few months have been all about Bad Psychic’s stunningly beautiful Soon. Now we have Gainesville, FL trio Ars Phoenix gracing us with yet another must-hear take on the genre in the form of Violent Rain.